This edition of Prime TV’s history of New Zealand television looks at 50 years of entertainment. The smorgasbord of music, comedy and variety shows ranges from 60s pop stars to Popstars, from the anarchy of Blerta to the anarchy of Telethon, from Radio with Pictures to Dancing with the Stars. Music television moves from C’mon and country, to punk and hip hop videos. Comedy follows the formative Fred Dagg and Billy T, through to Eating Media Lunch and 7 Days. A roll call of New Zealand entertainers muse on seeing Kiwis laugh, sing and shimmy on the small screen.
For nearly a decade, Selwyn Toogood and his panel of beauties helped solve life’s tricky problems every weekday afternoon. In this special 1000th episode, the problems range from a nine-year-old’s unaffectionate grandparents, to being caught between feuding neighbours. Making a special appearance is loyal viewer Ruth Flashoff, who is flown from Havelock North to Dunedin's Regent Theatre for the show. Toogood also gives praise to those behind the scenes, meets his old boss Christopher Bourn, and reels off an impressive list of statistics about the camera team.
After being spotted by television producer Christopher Bourn at the 1966 Loxene Golden Disc Awards, Maria Dallas was asked to star in series Golden Girl, grooving and bopping through country and crossover numbers. On a WNTV-1 stairway to nowhere set, she duets on Loxene winner ‘Tumblin’ Down’ with the song’s writer Jay Epae. Her other four numbers include ‘Rustle Your Bustle’ (by Kiwi Sam Freedman), and ‘Engine Engine No 9’. Guests The Dallas Four make their TV debut with a version of doo-wop classic ‘Stay’. The band went on to provide backing vocals for pop show Happen Inn.
DJ Neville (“Cham the Man”) Chamberlain hosts this episode from the first series of the NZBC’s nationwide search for stars. Judges Nick Karavias and Jim McNaught and guest Allison (“Queen of Pop”) Durbin preside over entries in the original song competition (all sung by Yolande Gibson); and the New Faces segment features vocal trio The Shevelles, a saxaphone quartet and 16-year-old country singer Brendan Dugan (the eventual winner of the series). A film clip of Wellington band The Avengers’ classic ‘Love Hate Revenge’ shows as the judges convene.
Promoter Joe Brown’s Search for Stars was a popular nationwide talent quest, broadcast on radio by Selwyn Toogood. This 1970 report from Living in New Zealand sees future TV executive Ernie Leonard interviewing entrants, during rehearsals at Rotorua’s Summer Carnival (including a young Tom Sharplin). Then it’s the 12 January grand final at the city's Sportsdome. Second place getter is 16-year-old Bunny Walters (who would go on to television fame, and score hits with 'Brandy' and 'Take the Money and Run'). Tui Fox won first prize: $2,000, and a recording contract with Brown.
New Zealand’s first global pop success story made one of its earliest screen appearances on this TV talent quest. The episodes are no longer preserved, but a family friend of the Finns pointed his Super 8 camera at the television screen. The clips are combined with the band’s memories from 2005 radio documentary Enzology. Split Ends (the ‘z’ came later) competed in the 18 November heat with ‘129’, and a week later in the final, miming ‘Sweet Talking Spoon Song’. They lost to Wellington's Bulldogs Allstar Goodtime Band, with a pre-Simon Cowell Phil Warren judging the lads “too clever”.
Highlights from the second test of the 1966 Lions tour feature in this National Film Unit newsreel. Soundly beaten in the first test, the Lions took drastic steps for this match at Wellington’s Athletic Park: dropping six players including their captain. On a muddy ground, with the capital’s wind playing its part, the Lions are more competitive — but the All Blacks run out deserved winners with tries to Kel Tremain, Tony Steel and a rampant Colin Meads (but no on-field celebrating). Half-back (future MP and radio announcer) Chris Laidlaw also figures prominently.
This NZBC series from the first great era of TV talent shows (and the heyday of light entertainment on the box) featured three new artists and three new songs vying for the judges' favours each week. Performers include Steve Allen (fresh from the success of his Commonwealth Games song 'Join Together') and actor and singer Annie Whittle; and there's a rare glimpse of singer-songwriter John Hanlon. Auckland band Space Waltz steals the show in the New Faces section, debuting their glam rock anthem 'Out on the Street' to an unsuspecting nation (and judges).
The new performers section of the NZBC’s TV talent quest concludes after 12 weeks of competition — with an incongruous line-up of finalists including two performing family acts, a soft rock group, a pub band, two cabaret singers and glam rockers Space Waltz competing for a $750 prize. It’s a reminder of the light entertainment industry that dominated TV music shows in the 1970s, but the real entertainment here is watching the judges (Phil Warren, Howard Morrison, Paddy O’Donnell and Nick Karavias) as they bicker, squabble and interrupt each other.